As an innovative method of learning, spaced learning has been creating a buzz since the last few years. The technique includes a sequence of short, intense training sessions with increased learner involvement, separated by short pauses during which students do a totally different activity. A number of people are involved in the creation of this form of learning; R. Douglas Fields presented us with the temporal pattern of stimuli related to the long-term memory, while Paul Kelley and his team were involved in developing the method that relies on Field’s research. Those important personalities agreed to the fact that the human brain can absorb and retain more information if learning activities are spaced.
Spaced learning includes some obvious benefits that cannot be overlooked. Although we cannot say if spaced learning will thoroughly alter the way that we are taught, either in schools or digitally as adult learners, but it’s certain that the technique can lead to significant impact.
Since spaced learning provides information in short bursts, spaced over time, this helps learners remember as well as recall over time. It reduces the need to be away from work to attend long training sessions. Spaced learning is particularly helpful in the age of mobile learning, where busy learners can use mobile devices to access short bursts training – while travelling, on the commute to work or even at home. It is then no wonder that spaced learning design is rapidly being adopted by many e-learning providers for effective learning in the corporate world.
How to incorporate spaced learning activities into training?
- Getting the Structure Right
To begin, you need to make sure to get the right structure for your e-learning course. Normally, the appropriate structure for spaced learning is to present one learning activity of up to five minutes, followed by a ten-minute break. This should be repeated two times. For instance: a 5-minute video can be interrupted by a ten-minute break, continued for 5 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break, and then completed with a list of multiple-choice questions based on the video content.
However, while the structure of learning, ‘rest, learn, rest, and learn’ is widely applicable, the time intervals should be tailored to learning needs, content, and audience. Besides, activities on more complex information usually need to exceed 5 minutes, and may also require lengthier breaks.
- Build in Creative Repetition
Because spaced learning depends on repetition to allow retention, spaced eLearning requires that information related to core learning outcomes be repeated frequently. Therefore, complex information may need to be repeated more frequently than simple information.
However, repetition is not the only thing needed. It is essential that the repeated information is repeated in new, creative ways every time.
With a good learning management system, this task can be done easily. With solutions such as videos, infographics, simulations, webinars, quizzes and other exciting features, the spaced learning technique can be applied effectively and it can be fun at the same time.
- Create Opportunities for Real-world Application
Real-world application is closely linked to creative repetition. Active engagement through real-world application is a way to achieve true understanding.
For instance: learning activities, like notes and infographics can really help. However, this should be complemented by components that allow the learner to apply their knowledge, such as interactive videos, scenario-based videos, simulations, and quizzes.
Through the use of applications that look like real situations in the workplace, employees are more likely to recall and apply that information in their roles. This leads to an improved return on training investment for the business, and allow employees to be more productive at work.
- More Practice
Training is the foremost step to take. However, everything that the employee learns during training will likely fade away if they’re not able to practice it in the workplace. Hence, employees should be encouraged to practice their new knowledge at work. Practice should not only be encouraged by supervisors and managers, but also through the eLearning course. For instance: eLearning activities such as gamification offers reward structures, levels, and badge systems that motivate learners to keep learning.
- Take a break
Take a break by leaving time in-between each lesson you upload. Through such practice, cognitive overload will be avoided and hence learners will be able to process the information they’ve just received.
The more the concept is repeated, the longer you should make the intervals between sessions. Research by Ebbinghaus highlighted that you should make the first few repetitions within days. With time, retention becomes better, then repetition can be done within weeks, or months, depending on how long your online course lasts. Thalheimer’s research about spaced learning found that wider spacings can improve memory as they require extra cognitive effort and create varied memory traces.
E-learning solutions have proven to be more and more effective for training purposes due to their accessibility, flexibility and practicality. Practicing e-learning with spaced learning can prove to be even more beneficial for improved retention. Designing learning so that activities can be tackled in short bursts, spaced over time, may not only help learners remember over time but also reduce the need for large blocks of time away from the workplace to learn in the first place. It is likely to be particularly helpful for busy learners on the go, who can use any device to access spaced learning in short bursts.